When the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in October 2012, they did it with the unlikeliest of good luck charms: a baby françois’ langur. The tiny monkey had been born at the San Francisco Zoo, and its arrival coincided with a winning streak for the Giants. In honor of this serendipitous connection, the zoo named the orange-headed monkey Romo, after the relief pitcher who clinched the World Series championship. Today, guests to the San Francisco Zoo can visit Romo and several of her monkey buddies at the Doelger Primate Discovery Center, which is just one of dozens of meticulously crafted animal exhibits.
Amid verdant city parks and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the zoo has been a part of the San Francisco community since it opened in 1929. Nearly 700 species of animals crawl, swim, and fly over its nearly 100 acres. Visitors traversing the space can explore elaborate exhibits and attempt to telepathically communicate with anything from birds and reptiles to invertebrates and mammals, including hippos, polar bears, and big cats.
One of the zoo’s most impressive habitats is the 3-acre African Savanna, which recreates a sprawling natural environment for free-roaming giraffes, zebras, kudu, and ostriches. Nearby, lemurs swing and leap through the treetops inside one of the country’s largest outdoor lemur habitats. In the Hearst Grizzly Gulch, panes of transparent plexiglas separate visitors from enormous Montana-born grizzly bear sisters Kachina and Kiona.
Oakland Zoo was first established in 1922, but it didn?t find its permanent home until 1939, when it was thoughtfully constructed amid the rolling hills of Knowland Park. Today, Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 animals, who thrive in biomes designed to mimic their natural environments.
The sprawling African savannah is one of the zoo?s largest habitats, housing hyenas, zebras, elephants, and giraffes. The centerpiece is a 1.5-acre lion exhibit called Simba Pori, which translates to lion county in Swahili. Inside, a pride of lions freely roam an enclosure outfitted with kopje rock structures, a pond, and a booth where the king can sign autographs.
Over in the rainforest habitat, chimpanzees and white-handed gibbons swing through the treetops. Emus and wallaroos?a cousin of the wallaby and the kangaroo?roam freely in the Wild Australia exhibit, accessible via one of the zoo?s rides, Outback Express Adventure Train. Other rides include the Endangered Species Carousel and Sky Ride, a chairlift that soars above the habitats and offers Bay Area skyline views.